The minute you see Kim's eyes in the incredibly engaging and moving short film Can't Hide It, you can't help but be struck by their radiating kindness. She's with her partner, Richard (Gavin Fowler), at a rather festive ugly sweater party where she is obviously surrounded by trusted friends.
But, we can tell that something isn't right.
It's evident in the body language, beautifully and achingly portrayed by Esther McAuley as Kim. It's body language that screams out "I'm here, but I'm not here"..."I'm here, but I don't want to be here. I just can't."
Somehow, she does.
You may be already saying to yourself that you know what Can't Hide It is all about. You're probably right, but it doesn't matter anyway because even if the story is more than a little bit familiar it's the way that writers/directors Richard Miller and Grant Archer bring everything to life that makes Can't Hide It such a memorable experience.
Oh yeah, and there's McAuley. I can't forget to mention McAuley, because she's simply extraordinary here embodying a woman who faces the kind of news we've all known someone to receive or, hey, maybe we've even received it ourselves. She receives it and when she aches, we ache right along with her because McAuley so completely immerses herself in this role that I barely have the nerve to call it a role.
It feels real. It feels painfully real.
You get the feeling that Kim is a natural optimist, the kind of woman who brightens the room when she enters it. But, there are times in life when even the brighest light dims and watching McAuley bring that ever so subtle dimming to life is so natural and so authentic that you can feel it in your bones right along with her.
When her partner, Richard, quietly assures her "You are not alone!," you believe him and you know that she believes him but you can tell, you can just tell, that sometimes even when you're not alone you're still alone. Speaking of Richard, Gavin Fowler gives a tender, insightful performance here as the kind of partner we'd all want in a similar scenario. He's sensitive and present, yet real and at times he communicates more with his silence than with his words. It's a tremendous performance and the two of them together are simply, well, there's that word again - extraordinary.
There's light touches of humane humor, nothing inappropriate or laugh out loud but the kind of light humor that comes to life when we're going through something that calls us to be stronger than we've ever been before.
Sometimes, you've got to laugh or you'll cry. Sometimes, you've got to cry.
The script here is remarkably honest and insightful and true, avoiding all the cliche's and stereotypes and dipping its cinematic toes into authenticity and downright naturalism.
Kudos must be given to the entire production team here including Stephen Theofanous for an original score that companions without ever dominating and for Miller's own editorial work that favors patience and quiet presence over anything jarring or overly dramatic.
Can't Hide It is simply a lovely short film, sad and yet oh so real and loving in all the wonderful and right ways. If you get a chance check it out and you can find out more about it at the official Facebook page linked to in the credits.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic